With the Holiday season approaching, it is important to consider just how easy a target your vehicle may be for would-be car burglars. Beyond the obvious acts of leaving cars unlocked and unattended overnight, or leaving your car running as you run into the convenience store, day care center or post office, motorists typically increase their time shopping, travelling and visiting with family and friends during the holiday season. However, it is important to remember that car burglars never take a break.

Few crimes affect such a wide range of people as an event where their vehicle is burglarized or intentionally damaged. In order to aid the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office in the prevention of such crimes, and help each resident enjoy a stress-free season, please follow these four simple steps which have been shown nationwide to be effective means of motor vehicle burglary deterrence.

1. Park your vehicle in a secure location. Studies conducted both regionally and nation-wide have shown vehicles parked in the street have a 120 percent higher chance of burglary. Additionally, while percentages for parking in a driveway are not as favorable as in a garage, vehicles parked in a driveway also have a reduced chance of break-in when compared to those parked curbside. The ECSO advises that the best way to combat motor vehicle burglaries is to utilize proven deterrents of all residential crime: keeping hedges trimmed, removing low hanging tree branches, installing outdoor lighting, and utilizing locking devices.

2. Lock any unoccupied vehicles. County-wide, an overwhelming percentage of reported burglaries involve unlocked vehicles. Certain individual neighborhood percentages have been shown to reach as high as 90-100 percent of vehicles being unlocked. In fact, since 2014 began, around 58 percent  of the Burglary of Motor Vehicle events throughout the entire county have involved unlocked vehicles. Not only do unlocked vehicles make easier targets for criminals, but once inside a vehicle, burglars often choose small, easy to carry, electronic items which typically do not have serial numbers recorded and can also be sold for a quick profit. Purses, GPS units, stereo equipment, laptops, cell phones and loose change are items particularly sought after. Simply recording model and/or serial numbers, and removing any valuables from plain sight, can deter criminals and enable law enforcement to track items.

3. Remove valuables. While locking doors is a major deterrent of theft, a determined thief who can see your valuables simply by looking through a window may go the extra mile to enter your vehicle. Equally important, if you have a GPS device, stereo system or other illuminated piece of technology, be aware that glowing items serve as a beacon for thieves as they walk or drive along residential neighborhoods. Also, whether going from store to store, parking at restaurants, or visiting friends throughout the day, the holiday season is a time when Christmas gifts are often left in plain view. Therefore, if you cannot take gifts or valuables inside with you, place such items in your trunk.

4. Report suspicious people walking around neighborhoods as soon as possible. Reporting suspicious people to the police helps track movements and patterns of criminals which may also link them to other crimes. Sadly, analysis nationwide has revealed that only half of vehicle burglaries are ever reported; leaving an uphill battle for police in combating such a trend. However, armed with knowledge of such events, and receiving community assistance, your local law enforcement can continue their primary mission of protecting you and your property.

To report suspicious activity, please contact the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office at 972-937-6060.

Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement more than 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.